Executive Chef Victor Martinez recently set out to change the way people think about hotel dining with his new position at Hilton Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort & Conference Center. Chef Martinez’s culinary program at the popular local retreat incorporates classically-trained French techniques with a focus on hyperlocal sourcing. “My cooking philosophy is to tell the ingredients’ story and bring a sense of mindfulness to the table,” says Martinez, who grew up in Chicago working at his father’s bistro. Here are some of this top chef’s favorite lasts:
Last farm dinner that left you inspired?
In a recent trip to Detroit I stopped at Selden Standard for dinner and it was a one of the best meals I have had in a while. Executive Chef Andy Hollyday is a three time James Beard semi-finalist. His food is truly inspirational. Produce, all from local farms, plays just as large of a part here as the proteins do. During the growing season at Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort, I’ll look to recreate this type of farm-to-fork atmosphere by using ingredients sourced right from our own gardens.
Last vacation that left you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated?
Last vacation I went on was to Punta Mita in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We were lucky enough to stay at the beautiful St. Regis Resort. All the wonderful amenities they offered to guests made it a truly memorable trip. They offered all the ingredients to make s’mores along with a raging fire on the beach next to the ocean. The whole vacation was relaxing as well as inspiring. I’m trying to bring those experiences back to the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort, where we’re trying to create extraordinary experiential moments for guests.
Last feedback from a dinner that made you proud?
My first event that I hosted after accepting the position at the Hilton Oak Brook Hills Resort was a Knob Creek Bourbon Dinner. It also just so happened to be my birthday, making it even more memorable. Each course was paired with a different Knob Creek cocktail. The best course was a braised beef cheek with a trumpet mushroom bread pudding and a tarragon demi-glace paired with Knob Creek straight bourbon. The feedback was outstanding and definitely reaffirmed my decision to join the team.
Last food discovery that surprised you?
I visited San Francisco last year and discovered Burmese food for the first time. While you can taste the Indian and Thai influence, it has a flavor all its own. The dishes were filled with bold flavors that were refreshing, spicy, earthy, and unlike anything I had tasted before.
Last impulse decision you made that you will never regret?
Volunteering as the featured chef for the Earth Day Fundraiser this spring for Big Green Chicago and Imperfect Produce, two inspirational organizations. I think sustainability is going to be key going into the future. Too much food waste happens and I think the industry needs to help educate the public on using imperfect items as well as uses of food towards the end of their life. The culinary industry needs to lead the way and help educate the public.